UNDER INVESTIGATION: Troopers probe allegations of multiple physical abuse at St. Innocent’s Academy

Author: Roni Toldanes
Date Published: 01/21/2015
Publication: Kodiak Daily Mirror
State troopers are investigating allegations of “deeply disturbing” physical abuses at the St. Innocent’s Academy on Mission Road, officials say.
State troopers are investigating allegations of “deeply disturbing” physical abuses at the St. Innocent’s Academy on Mission Road, officials say.
Except for its rusty school bus, the St. Innocent’s Academy does not have big signs. The academy is housed in a nondescript building, right, on Mission Road. At least 12 former students claim to have witnessed or personally experienced physical abuse at the academy through the years.
Except for its rusty school bus, the St. Innocent’s Academy does not have big signs. The academy is housed in a nondescript building, right, on Mission Road. At least 12 former students claim to have witnessed or personally experienced physical abuse at the academy through the years.

The Alaska State Troopers has launched an investigation into allegations of physical abuse that a dozen former students allege to have taken place through the years at the St. Innocent’s Academy in Kodiak, officials said Tuesday.

Sgt. Eric Olsen, Alaska State Troopers’ Kodiak post supervisor, said the state’s police agency “has been made aware of the allegations” and troopers are currently investigating.

“We are actively investigating the case and asking that any person with knowledge of the case to contact the state troopers,” Olsen said.

Two teachers, in interviews with the Kodiak Daily Mirror, said they’ve filed separate formal complaints with the state troopers, alleging physical abuses at the academy.

On Thursday, Jan. 15, the academy issued a statement through its secretary, Anna Spencer:

“We take these allegations very seriously,” the statement said. “Because of the potential far-reaching consequences, which may affect not only the future of the Academy, but potential students as well, and our relationship to the community with which we have so long enjoyed a warm and welcoming relationship, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this time.”

As a result of the complaints, a priest announced his resignation from the Christ the Saviour Brotherhood, one of the major supporters of the academy on Mission Road.

Father John Koen said he resigned on Jan. 10 after learning about the alleged abuse of his own children at the academy for the first time.

“I was not fully aware of what had happened to my daughter Caroline while she was there until fairly recently. I was not fully aware of the truly horrifying abuse my son John experienced there until this past week. These are only two of many,” Father John said in his resignation letter to Kate McCaffery, secretary of the brotherhood. “It is shocking, absurd, outrageous and deeply disturbing.”

“Abuse within the Church absolutely cannot be tolerated,” he said. “It cannot be allowed that it is ignored or denied.”

In lengthy interviews with the Daily Mirror, 12 students claimed to have witnessed or personally experienced physical abuse at the academy through the years, including beatings and inhumane treatments.

The alleged abuses took place between 1999 and August 2011, according to written statements and interviews with former students.

The students, now 22 to 38 years old, currently live in California, New York, Illinois, Indiana, Texas and New Mexico. They include a law-enforcement officer, a bank teller, a teacher, a former soldier and hospital employees.

Martha Koen, a teacher in Indiapolis, Indiana, said she filed a formal complaint before the state troopers two weeks ago on behalf of her son, John, who was a student at the academy in 2006 when he was 17 years old.

Anna Flanzala, a former Kodiak teacher now living in Vermont, said she also filed a complaint with the state troopers, alleging physical abuse suffered by her own son when he lived at the academy about 10 years ago. She said the physical abuses took place when he was between 6 and 8 years old.

Roni Toldanes is managing editor of the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact him at (907) 486-3227, ext. 622.